Committee OKs Medical Whistleblower Bill

A bill that would prevent medical workers from being fired for reporting safety issues passed the House Health & Human Services Committee unanimously on Thursday. Rep. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), sponsor of HB 1133, said  the bill will shield potential whistleblowers from retaliation.

“This bill is aimed at making sure people feel safe coming forward,” she said. “This bill is aimed at reducing the huge number of preventable medical errors.”

Carroll said medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. Several nurses who said they have been punished for reporting safety violations testified in support of the bill.

Donna Jaynes, a nurse for more than 20 years, testified she was fired from St. Anthony’s Hospital in 2000 after filing a report detailing a physician’s mistake. Jaynes unsuccessfully sued for wrongful termination. According to a 2006 Denver Post column, the hospital filed a court brief saying Jaynes had no legal protection:

“Where there is no clear mandate on this issue, where employees are not statutorily required to report, this court should not create a new public policy in this sensitive area. Creating public policy is a legislative function, not a judicial function.”

Rep. Carroll’s bill would protect the jobs of medical safety whistleblowers like Jaynes. A version of the bill passed the legislature in 2006, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Owens. At that time, it was opposed by the Colorado Health & Hospital Organization. After a minor amendment was adopted Thursday, a representative from the organization said it wouldn’t oppose the bill this time.

The bill will now head to the House floor.